Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Song of the day: Michael Gross and the Statuettes
I was contacted by a friendly American chap called Michael (Hi, Michael!) who let me know that he and his band have recorded an album. He asked if I'd have a listen to said album and offer my thoughts on it. I said "Okey dokey, blokey". (Disclaimer: I didn't say that at all.)
The band is Michael Gross and the Statuettes, and the album is Sunset Beach. Michael says the album will be released on August 14 (or, if you don't live in the land of American grammar, it's 14 August).
For this post I'll just play you the first three tracks from the album and add some impertinent comments. Hopefully, it'll give you a decent idea of the album in a relatively short post, and it'll stop me from depriving the band of an income. (I certainly wouldn't want to hear Michael exclaiming: "Oi – don't give away all our songs, you cretin!")
This may not be the ideal introduction to the music of Michael and his little statues if you haven't heard it before, because whenever I talk about music it always comes out hopelessly biased. I listen to music from the standpoint of someone who likes and dislikes particular things, rather than someone who is admirably unbiased about all music. I try to be as impartial as I can, but I fail because I have my particular tastes in music and they invariably affect any new music I listen to. Subsequently, you're gonna get an unfair view (i.e., Peter's view) of the music.
Now that I have my inept disclaimer out of the way, let's listen to some music...
Track 1: "We're Just Shadows"
Michael told me that his music has been described by some people as a cross between Radiohead and Weezer. Yep. This is very Radiohead. But – and this might seem a little odd – those vocals reminded me of Dusty Springfield. (Maybe it's the slight breathiness in the midrange timbre. Or maybe not.)
As for the song itself: I know it's supposed to be mysterious and all (à la Radiohead), but I couldn't quite get into the mystery because I kept hearing the little squeaks on the steel-stringed acoustic guitar. That made me picture the guitarist sitting in front of a microphone, playing the gutar part and wondering to him- or herself: "Dang it! How can I get that guitar to stop squeaking?".
I liked the use of the Mellotron sound to create the song's aura of mystery (despite the guitar squeaks). You can always count on a Mellotron to give your song a weird mood.
Track 2: "Don't Let Me Down"
Song 2 starts very grandly, with what sounds like a full choir. (It could actually be just a couple of people and some studio trickery.) The full choir only lasts 12-and-a-bit seconds, and it's replaced by the band at 0:14. The band stuff is fairly mysterious, like the first track, but more in a U2 kind of way rather than a Radioheady way. However, the singer is still sounding a bit Radiohead-ish.
The chorus kicks in at 1:34, and a fine uplifting chorus it is. Then it's the verse, chorus, verse, chorus etc, with a strange little instrumental section from 3:16 to 3:29. And then the song ends – which is something I've noticed most songs do.
Track 3: "Waiting For Shadows" (2012)
This is more like it. (Well, for me anyway.) I thought this song had a much better balance, in that it increased the melodic content and eased off on the earnestness. This song is equal parts melody and seriousness. I can live with that ratio.
I listened to the rest of the album, but I shan't put the songs here (no, I shan't) for the reasons stated above in the disclaimer. Tracks 4-13 varied in the amount of melody, seriousness, intensity, and other words that would make this sentence too long. Instead of using up my limited vocabulary with descriptive words, I'll just say that I enjoyed those songs – primarily because they sounded more like track 3 and less like tracks 1 and 2.
You know what? I'll throw caution to wherever caution is thrown, and I will play you another one of Michael's songs. I want to you to get a better idea of what's on the album, and tracks 1 and 2 don't do that. (For me, the first two tracks don't really count because they were more about setting up a mood rather than giving you proper songs.)
So, at the risk of incurring a Michael shouting "Stop that!" here's a more representative track:
Track 6: "Somebody Loves Me" (2012)
Overall, I have to confess that the music I listened to courtesy of Michael and his generosity (thanks, Michael!) isn't exactly the kind of music I ordinarily like listening to. Music of this ilk is a bit too earnest for my liking. But I will say that for what it is, I think it's probably good. I don't listen to much U2, and even less Radiohead, so I'm not really in a decent enough position to give you any authoritative summaries or grand pronouncements about the music on Sunset Beach. You'll probably have a better idea of what you listened to than I did.
But I can say that for an album entitled Sunset Beach, it's not very Beach-Boys-ish. (Just in case you were thought it the album was going to be something Wilsonesque.)